When training camp opens in Spartanburg, South Carolina on July 26th, the excitement of football’s return will shortly overshadow the real competitions unfolding on those hot practice fields. The gruel of training camp for some of the favored another preseason to be worked through without injury. For others, training camp will be a limited opportunity for some young players to prove their ability and capability. There may not be a position on the roster less predetermined than Carolina’s wide receiver group. Outside of Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina doesn’t have anyone who has done much in the NFL. There’s potential, but until that is actualized on the field that is all it is—potential.
Favored to Make Team: Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, and Russell Shepherd
Carolina has only kept five wideouts the past few years. This year will probably be the same. Here’s a look at the guys on the bubble, fighting for that last available spot.
Brenton Bersin: His time in Carolina has to end at some point. Bersin is a survivor though. He’s been on the bubble every year, but he’s liked by Cam and has ingratiated himself with the coaching staff. It’s hard betting against him at this point. This I think is the year when it comes to an end for Sunshine in Carolina.
Damiere Byrd: Heading into his third training camp and likely his last real shot to make it in Carolina, the little speedster is coming off a minor offseason knee surgery and competition with Curtis Samuel who was a 2nd round pick this year. If Carolina give him a real shot remains to be seen. Last season, Byrd had a great preseason and a great training camp, but still couldn’t crack a roster that didn’t have any speed outside of Ted Ginn. Drafting Samuel certainly didn’t increase his odds. He’s got some experience and talent. Carolina hasn’t kept him around without reason, but Bersin looms still.
Charles Johnson: He may have been brought in as a free agent, but his spot on the team isn’t guaranteed. He’s got NFL experience and NFL speed. He’s not the most aggressive pass-catcher, but is deadly in space. Losing Tedd Ginn took away the one speedster on last year’s roster. Gettleman had to do something not knowing how the draft would unfold. Samuel, however, has the wheels and Byrd will be fighting hard to get his hat.
Keyarris Garrett: He’s big and has potential. It will be hard to unseat Devin Funchess who he resembles most as a player. Carolina kept him on the practice squad last season because he can player, however. Garrett said he feels a lot more comfortable going into his second training camp. Garrett will have to win behind the scenes just as much as on the field. Carolina has invested a lot in Funchess. They traded up in 2015 to get him and Rivera has mentioned that he needs to be better incorporated into the game-plan.
Fred Ross: One of the more intriguing players who is likely destined for the practice squad. Ross has NFL size with average speed. The two-time All-SEC was an accomplished college player at Mississippi St. (195 receptions/2,484 yds.). He made some big plays in OTAs, but even with a great camp and preseason, it will be unlikely Carolina gives a hat to the URFA.
Austin Duke: He’ll be camp favorite because of his ties to Charlotte. He was a star at Independence High and with the Charlotte 49er’s. He’s confident player who won’t lay down. He’s also a long-shot. The Panthers list him at 5’9 and 170lbs, but his college playing weight was 155lbs his senior year. He speedily put on about 15lbs to shake off some of that little-man perspective. Either way, he’s undersized, something that has played negatively against Damiere Byrd for the last two years. Duke is more likely to make the practice squad if he performs well in camp and the preseason.
Kaelin Clay: He is there less because he is a receiver and more because he had three punt return and one kickoff return touchdown in his one year of college football. It would be great to see Carolina have someone who was a dangerous returner. The team, however, hasn’t allocated a roster spot for a return specialist in a long time. They don’t seem comfortable putting the ball in the hands of guys with little experience. It’s a longshot for Clay, but this is an area of need without Ginn and given Carolina's inability to get good field position on kickoffs.
Mose Frazier: Known best for taking a swing at Luke Kuechly in OTAs, it’s hard to see a world where Frazier is a real option to make the team. The Memphis standout, who caught balls from Paxton Lynch in college, has spent time on Denver, San Fran, and Buffalo’s practice squad. He’ll likely get to know Joe Webb well as he runs drills with the 3rd stringers.
Cameron Posey: He only caught 39 passes his senior year at Purdue. Now one was for 89 yard touchdown, where he had a 112 yards receiving on the day. Nothing like getting 30% of the season yards in one game and 25% on one catch. He will probably turn into the next Sunshine and be on the team for the next decade.
By Tony Dunn
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